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LAGA Warns On Extinction Of Wildlife Species 

By Edith Wirdze

The Last Great Ape Organisation, LAGA, warns on the imminent extinction of endangered wildlife species if governments do not take urgent measures to combat illicit trade in wildlife species.

According to a release from LAGA, elephants are racing towards extinction. A senior official of the World Wide Fund for Nature, WWF, in Cameroon, Martin Tchamba, declares that elephants are declining in large numbers on daily basis due to the booming trade in ivory, which calls for elephant hunting.

Thus, if governments in Africa do not take measures to combat the ill, "elephants could be extinct within the next 10 years." Statistics show that some 700.000 elephants were killed to supply the international trade in elephant products between 1970 and 1989. In addition, an estimated 23.000 elephants were slaughtered in 2006 due to increased demand for ivory.

The decline in wildlife species is resulting to empty forest syndrome in Central and West Africa.
To Boesch, Director of the German-based Max Planck Institute, "whereas the forest itself is still intact, it has been emptied by hunting".  He calls on the government of Cameroon to take appropriate actions against illicit hunting. It should be noted that despite government actions to punish poachers, they still continue to hunt endangered species.

Recently, a poacher was arrested in Somalomo Messamena, Upper Nyong Division of the East Region, in possession of an elephant trunk. Also, the Mamfe Magistrate Court in the Southwest Region, ordered three dealers in elephant products to collectively pay to government the sum of FCFA 6 million as damages as well as to serve  two-year prison terms each.

Also, an illegal elephant hunter who killed an eco-guard at the Bayang-Mbo Wildlife Sanctuary was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment by the High Court in Bangem. Another elephant dealer was sentenced to five-year imprisonment in Buea for killing 7 elephants in the Korup National Park in the Southwest Region. Meanwhile, the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, Prof. Elvis Ngolle Ngolle, states that the government is doing every thing possible to curb the ill.

"We have all the control mechanisms put in place to control wildlife exploitation," he said.
He added that perpetrators are punished according to the 1994 law governing the wildlife sector in Cameroon, which states that; "anyone found in possession of part of dead or live protected wildlife species including elephants is liable to a prison term of up to 3 years and or pay a fine of up to FCFA 10 million."

It would be recalled that the programme on effective wildlife law enforcement was launched in 2003 with technical assistance from LAGA, with the goal of bringing wildlife law offenders to justice. The law is a reflection of the convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora for which Cameroon is a signatory.

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